The Queenstown Lakes District Council has had a change of
heart over allowing the cultivation of land considered to be
Last week, the council told a south Hawea Flat farmer he
could plough his land without resource consent, but
yesterday, after much of the land had already been ploughed
or cleared of vegetation, it said consent could be needed
Concerns were raised last week by the Royal Forest and Bird
Protection Society of New Zealand - along with a Landcare
Research scientist, the Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway group,
Wanaka landscape architect Anne Steven and members of the
public - about the alleged ''unlawful'' clearance of native
vegetation on the private land on the true left of the Clutha
River, upriver of Kane Rd.
They considered the land should be protected because of its
rare and threatened ecosystems.
Forest and Bird acting Otago-Southland field officer Jen
Miller wrote to the QLDC requesting the clearance work be
stopped until the owner had sought consent.
The landowner referred to in email correspondence between
QLDC and Forest and Bird was Dugald Innes, who did not return
In a letter to the QLDC yesterday, Forest and Bird lawyer
Peter Anderson said the clearance activity breached the
ecological provisions of the district plan, which the council
had an obligation to enforce.
''It has failed to fulfil this obligation.''
Forest and Bird could refer the matter to the Environment
Court or the Office of the Ombudsman, Mr Anderson wrote,
unless the council instructed the landowner to cease the work
and reinstate the site as much as possible.
He acknowledged the council could do very little to rectify
the situation, as Mr Innes ''will simply and correctly say, I
undertook this activity with the council's approval''.
''That the approval was given in error does not alter the
fact that highly significant values have been destroyed.''
Yesterday, council general manager, planning and development,
Marc Bretherton told the Otago Daily Times the council
had investigated the concerns soon as it was aware of them
and a site visit last Thursday confirmed there was no breach
of the district plan.
''Acting on the information available and in accordance with
legal advice, there was no basis for issuing any form of
enforcement proceedings prior to the weekend,'' Mr Bretherton
However, after site-specific ecological advice was obtained
on Monday, the landowner was contacted yesterday morning and
told ''an ecological report and possibly resource consent''
would be required.
''At this point the council became aware that the site had
been ploughed. We are still assessing whether any further
action is appropriate.''
Ms Miller said once dryland farms were converted to irrigated
land for more intensive development, rare ecosystems were